Paris Whisky Live 2022 – VIP Antipodes with Arran 10 + 25 year

Where to start? After the rather overwhelmingly long VIP line, I was finally in Paris Whisky Live and made my way to part of the VIP section. With all the crowds around the ‘popular’ Antipodes, I wandered my way to a curious one that combined whisky and beer.

Naturally, my eye quickly spotted Arran whiskies and I thought, why not warm up the palate with a friendly favourite?

Arran 10 year (05 Oct 2011 – 11 July 2022) 1st Fill Bourbon Cask 2011/1871 55.2% (LMdW Antipode bottle 163 of 224)

Knowing the Arran 10 year standard, I dove immediately into their 10-year Private Cask at cask strength – nothing like going from 0% to 55.2%!

It was exactly as expected! A lovely sunshine ex-bourbon dram with honey, fruity, cheerful cherries, berries, and more! Throw in some warm vanilla cream, a dash of slightly citrus notes closing with a sweet summery finish, What a lovely way to calibrate the palate for treats to come!

Arran 25 year (05 Aug 1996 – 11 Jul 2022) Sherry Hogshead 1996/892 51.5% (LMdW Antipode bottle 267 of 268)

I then moved on to the Arran 25 year…. This was not my 1st brush with their older whiskies, having been fortunate to try the 2020 25-year at the Lochranza distillery from the cask before it was bottled – a cask strength marvel that showcased just how carefully considered the approach was from the start. However what about this slightly later avatar?

  • Colour – Deep ruby, almost garnet
  • Nose – What a fabulous sherry bomb! Gorgeous rich character
  • Palate – Starts soft and silky smooth, then morphs into dark berries, chocolate
  • Finish – A long strong beautiful finish

What a wonderfully well-rounded mature dram. An absolute treasure!

This was no gentle start but instead going straight into the sublime! Clearly, I started my Paris Whisky Live 2022 in the right way!

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Paris Whisky Live 2022 – VIP Antipodes Ex Libris – Knappogue Castle + JP Wiser

What the heck is the “Ex Libris” line from La Maison du Whisky’s Artist range all about? Put simply, this series goes beyond Scotland and links whisky to literature. Clean labels with a nod to days gone by, I was drawn to discover what lies between the covers of these “books.”

The quartet sampled at Paris Whisky Live featured a trio from Ireland from Knappogue Castle with three contrasting expressions (ex bourbon, sherry, and port) named after James Joyce poems followed by a remarkably aged Canadian J.P. Wiser – 40 years! – taking title inspiration from Canadian author Mordecai Richler.

As this was a Whisky fest, I kept to my pattern of sniff, swish and (sigh…) spit… which means my notes are fleeting impressions rather than proper tasting insights.

Knappogue Castle “Summer Wind” 28 Year (1994) ex-Bourbon Cask 888138 52.2% (LMdW ex Libris) EUR 540

  • Nose – Bright, light, and fruity, faintly floral
  • Palate – Darker dessert, vanilla cream, lovely balance, classic style
  • Finish – Light spice chased by candied ginger

An enchanting afternoon dram. I loved it! Such a perfect way to kick off our Knappogue Castle trio…

Knappogue Castle “Wind of Spices” 24 Year (1997) ex-Sherry Cask 87601 54.4% (LMdW) EUR 499

  • Nose – Delicious pastries, with some lovely heavier wood elements
  • Palate – Lovely rich, heavier, intense berries, chocolates, such depth of character… it almost touched being in the wood too long…. a bit vegetal
  • Finish – Long and strong

What a contrast with the ex-Bourbon! The Sherry cask added a marvelous dimension…. the kind of special dram you simply want to sit back, relax in a comfy leather chair with a damn good book…. slowly savoring for hours. Fabulous!

Knappogue Castle “Wind of May” 22 Year (2000) Ruby Port Cask 45429 56.8% (LMdW) EUR 515

  • Nose – Heavier
  • Palate – Hmmm…..  it was a bit too much punch for me, at least so early in the morning!
  • Finish – Bitter

For me, this was more of a winter dram than late-spring whisky.  Now I appreciate this was just a sniff and swish, however, I struggled with this one…. my scant tasting notes reflect this struggle too. Perhaps in a different setting, I would have a very different impression.

Changing gears, I moved on to The Apprenticeship, taken from Mordecai Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959), which refers to the journey of J. P. Wiser’s master blender, Dr. Don Livermore.

JP Wiser’s “Apprenticeship” 40 year (1982) 61.9% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Spicy, Sweet corn then shifted into a deep woodsy dimension
  • Palate – Smooth, waxy…. a bit like flavored crayons, all sorts of elements going on
  • Finish – Spicy

Now, this is one I wish I could have given more time and attention to! It isn’t often you come across something of such a vintage – particularly from Canada. I will fully admit that for a Canadian, I’ve woefully neglected exploring the Canadian whisky scene in my infrequent trips to visit family and friends. And to have a slice of whisky history like this practically slip through my fingers (nostrils)? Ah well…

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Paris Whisky Live 2022 – VIP Gordon + Macphail’s Convalmore + Highland Park

Gordon & Macphail’s Private Collection features rare, old and even closed distilleries, a “must catch” at any whisky festival and a very good reason to go “VIP” for at least one day at Paris Whisky Live.

Featured in 2022 were a closed distillery – Convalmore – and a familiar friend with Highland Park. I had to start with the Convalmore which was approx 40 years patiently maturing in refill American hogshead.

This was my first experience with Convalmore – which was “Victorian” Speyside distillery that spent most of its life in blends. “Mothballed” in 1985, this particular vintage dram came from some of its final years of operations.

Convalmore (1982/2 Mar 2022) Refill American Hogshead #155 55.5% (Gordon & Macphail) 104 bottles

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Delightfully fruity – pears, apples… dripping in sweet honey, shifting into vanilla cream – delicious
  • Palate – Lovely on the palate, soft… continued the fruity element, a bit waxy
  • Finish – Light spice, sweet with a buttery texture

Beautiful! This was so special. Fruity, waxy, subtle, nuanced and supremely sophisticated. Such a lovely whisky… and such a treat to have a chance to try something so rare and lovely from a closed distillery.

The official Gordon & Macphail tasting notes are remarkably similar to my scribbles from a sniff & swish at Paris Whisky Live:

  • Nose – Rich vanilla pod gives way to fresh green apple and orange zest. Honeysuckle notes develop with quince and toasted walnut.
  • Taste – Sweet and smooth exotic fruit flavours accompany poached pear and floral notes. White chocolate comes to the fore alongside baked apple
  • Finish – A medium-bodied finish with guava and sweet honey.

I couldn’t find this exact bottle for sale, however, a related one from 1982 was listed on WhiskyBase for GBP 1,500, which gives you a feel for just how pricey a sip of whisky history can be.


Next up was another vintage dram – also pushing the high side of 30s from Orkney Island with Highland Park. I must admit that this distillery was an early favourite – my ‘gateway” dram to single malts back in the 1990s – particularly the 18 years old. Since then, they have gone all over the place with different approaches, some very “Viking” branding… which made it all the more refreshing to slip back in time to the “original” spirit of their spirits…

Highland Park 37 year (1984 / 31 Dec 2021) Refill American Hogshead #1816 46.3% (Gordon & Macphail) Bottles 116

  • Colour – Gold
  • Nose – Fruitier than expected, sweet lemon/lime-like mosambi, honey sweet and light, with a dash of salted caramel
  • Palate – Incredibly silky smooth, gorgeous and well balanced, with a hint of citrus fruit coming from behind, light peat gives this a lovely dimension
  • Finish – Gentle and subtle

What fun! This was a lovely dram… In some ways reminded me a bit of the much younger Chorlton 15 year Orkney.

And what about the official Gordon & Maphail tasting notes as a reference? Yup! Would certainly agree…

  • Nose – Fragrant lemon aromas intertwine with honeydew melon and sweet Demerara sugar. Red apple notes develop accompanied by grapefruit zest and walnut.
  • Taste – Citrus fruit flavours give way to guava and subtle cured meats. Dried mango comes to the fore alongside toasted almonds and spicy pepper.
  • Finish – Soft smoke lingers on the finish with green apple, poached pear and spice.

I was curious to see what this experience would set you back… and found a bottle currently available through Whic.de for EUR 1,790.

What an interesting pair… and there we have it!

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London Whisky Show – Disappointing Diageo’s Den

Once you have been to a whisky festival or two, you start to have a way of navigating their offerings…. making a good connection or two with the lads and lasses at the various booths, and then move on to give others a chance to experience, hopefully learning a thing or two along the way. At London’s The Whisky Show, we had a grand old time and thoroughly enjoyed our day! With one or two teeny tiny exceptions…

Along with our “dream dram” and meal tokens, we also had a Diageo chocolate and whisky pairing ticket too. The meal was really quite terrific for a mass event like The Whisky Show. However every time we would glance over at the Diageo area, it was so crazy crowded around the bar, that we would skip over and continue to other options.

As the afternoon waned, we decided better go before it was too late! At first, it was nearly impossible to get anyone’s attention and when we finally did, enquiring about the pairing, were informed they ran out. He clearly was overwhelmed and not interested in offering anything or having a chat…

However, we persisted and spotted the Clynelish Cask Strength 54.9% was handy. So insisted on a small pour. This wasn’t our 1st Clynelish and found it was fruity and floral as expected.

We thought to try something more but, frankly, gave up. We enjoy the conversations, learning something new, however, for us at least, this clearly wasn’t going to happen at the Diageo den.

So yes, they are the biggest boys in the industry and I’m quite sure they had an impressive array of whiskies available at The Whisky Show – estimated to be above 75 – however we clearly were not pushy enough or important enough to get much ‘love’ from their side. Oh well… you win some and you miss some!

Lucky for us, we had some absolutely STELLAR drams at Gordon & Macphail, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, the TWE festival area and so much more! That this wee uninspiring experience didn’t deter us from a marvelous mostly malty day!!

As for other Clynelish tasting experiences? Read on…

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London Whisky Show – Berry Bros + Rudd’s Speyside

There were just too many options at the London Whisky Show! It is simply impossible to get to everything. Towards the end of the day, we passed by the Berry Bros & Rudd, and thought… let’s try just one!

By that point in our wanderings, I thought of trying something classic and uncomplicated. So decided to sample the Classic Speyside blend.

Berry Bros & Rudd Speyside Blended Malt 44.2% 

  • Nose – Honey, citrus, fresh fruits
  • Palate – Juicy fruits
  • Finish – Lightly sweet

Though I had only a light sniff, swish & spit, it left a nice impression – something easy and fruity. And there are times when that hits the spot.

What more do they have to say?

Many of Scotland’s most famous malts hail from Speyside, known for their approachable, fruity style and floral complexity. Our Classic Speyside Malt captures the very essence of the region, balancing subtle, honeyed fruit aromas with easy-going yet complex aromas.

  • Appearance: Golden Syrup
  • Bouquet: Honeyed fruit, citrus and soft wood
  • Palate: Creamy citrus, honey, rounded
  • Finish: Soft fruits, mid-long

I glanced at the Sherry however as everything was beginning to close up, decided to skip! However next festival should spend a bit of time with these folks.

For whatever reason, we haven’t tried many of their own whisky selections… just a few:

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London Whisky Show – Fettercairn

After almost overwhelming experiences with both Gordon & Macphail and That Boutique-y Whisky Co, my tasting companion and I were on our way out for a break at the London Whisky Show. However, en route were distracted by the Fettercairn stand…. what did we try?

Fettercairn 16 year (2021) Batch 003, 46.4% 

  • Nose – Shy but present, sweet, and maybe a bit of ginger?
  • Palate – Clear sherry influence, woody
  • Finish – Sweet smoked paprika

Our tasting guide shared that the expression was matured in Oloroso & Palo Cortado Sherry Butts. To be honest, we didn’t spend much time with this one.

Fettercairn Warehouse No. 2 (2022) Batch 004, 48.8%

  • Nose – What you would expect from the casks – some honey, orchard fruits and something a bit different
  • Palate – Spicy and sweet, quite active – flavours bouncing around

The idea behind this series is to showcase the distillery ‘spirit & character’ through different batches that will differ each time. In this case, we sampled the 4th batch which had first-fill ex-bourbon casks (approx 74%) as its ‘base’, and some second-fill ex-bourbon casks (20%), with the balance from Hungarian oak wine casks that were re-charred.

When you wander through the booths at a Whisky Festival, there comes a point where impressions start to blur, tasting notes get shorter and it is clearly time for a change in pace. This is why after the Fettercairn, we decided to step out of the main area, took a break, and rather re-enter, next went to a masterclass!

As for other Fettercairn tasting experiences? Read on…

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London Whisky Show – Lochranza’s Machrie Moor

My London Whisky Show tasting companion and I are both fans of Arran whiskies. The Lochranza distillery’s un-peated “Arran” style – both their core range and limited editions!

However whilst I’ve known of their peated “Machrie Moor” for years, haven’t adequately explored these expressions. Since 2019, Lochranza stopped using peat, choosing instead to dedicate their new Lagg distillery to a peat style. This means Machrie Moor will become a thing of the past. So we skipped over many familiar friends on offer, to try this duo of their standard Machrie Moor and cask strength.

Machrie Moor 46% 

  • Nose – Peat and sweet, fresh with that special kinda peat that combines smoked meats, crispy bacon, and a drizzle of maple syrup
  • Palate – Started spicy, then mellowed out with hints of the underlying fruity character
  • Finish – Cinamon and smoke

This may seem surprising, but my impression from a light sniff, swish, and spit was that Machrie Moor was surprisingly mild and modest.

What more do they have to say about this expression?

On the west coast of the Isle of Arran lies a windswept and mystical peat bog called Machrie Moor. Bronze Age stone circles and standing stones are strewn across its barren, undulating terrain. One of the stone circles is known as Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, where sits a stone with a carved hole. The legendary warrior giant Fingal is said to have tethered his favourite dog Bran to this stone. This peated expression of the Arran Single Malt perfectly captures the rugged beauty and lore of the landscape. Unleash the legend that is Machrie Moor.

And their official tasting notes?

  • Nose – Light smoke and citrus
  • Palate – Dried grass, peat smoke and hints of vanilla and tropical fruit.
  • Finish – Citrus, Smoke, Peat, Pineapple.

We then moved on to the cask strength expression…

Machrie Moor Cask Strength 56.2% 

  • Nose – At first fruity then shifted into meaty peat with smoked ham or pastrami
  • Palate – A fiery spice! Which initially masked the stewed fruits

Unlike the milder Machrie Moor 46%, this was a powerhouse and initially a bit imbalanced. However, I have a strong suspicion that a dash of water would make all the difference – something that we skipped in our quick zip-through!

What more do they have to say?

  • Nose – Citrus notes with a background of peat and a puff of smoke immediately apparent
  • Palate – A robust dram with the typical orchard fruits of Arran coming to the fore over a layer of toasted brioche and red berries
  • Finish – Citrus, Smoke, Chocolate, Vanilla, Coconut.

Both were interesting to try, however, have to admit, we remain partial to their un-peated expressions. Curious about these other Arran explorations? Just read on…

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London Whisky Show – Kyrö Malt, Wood Smoke + Monbazallic Rye

It is terrific to discover something new! And that is just what happened at the London Whisky Show with this distillery from Finland – Kyrö.

There is a quirky humourous approach… with the visual of a bunch of men running buck naked (from a sauna) across a field…. as they shared:

It all started with five friends in a sauna, pondering why nobody in Finland was making rye whisky. We had no idea how to make whisky the “right” way, so we did it our way – and Kyrö Malt is where the story of Kyrö Distillery Company began.

Two co-owners were there in London with their enthusiasm infectious! We couldn’t help enjoying both the whiskies and the experience.

Kyrö Malt Rye 47.2% 

  • Nose – Young, fresh, herbal with some menthol
  • Palate – Softly sweet, licorice, rye bread
  • Finish – Clean pine

I really quite liked this Rye… it had a clean fresh style that was quite appealing

What more do they have to say?

Made with 100% malted Finnish rye, Kyrö Malt is a whisky that proudly breaks the mould. It is double pot distilled and aged in a combination of new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, resulting in intense pepperiness, balanced with sweet notes of caramel and vanilla.

It’s perfect sipped as it is, in a whisky sour – or any way you like.

  • Nose: Pepper, Vanilla, Caramel, Dried fruits
  • Palate: Sweet rye bread, Honey, Wild berries, Smooth finish with caramel and mocha

I read the description and notes much later, but from my memory and tasting scribbles, it rang true!

Kyrö Wood Smoke Rye 47.2% 

  • Nose – Sauna wood smoked, sweet grass
  • Palate – Like a log cabin, cedar plank used to cook fish
  • Finish – Out of nowhere, big and bold!

OK, maybe I was influenced by all the sauna talk… but it really did remind me of a sauna!

What more do they have to say?

With Kyrö Wood Smoke we honour the oldest kind of Finnish sauna – the smoke sauna.

Using an ancient northern tradition, the rye used in Kyrö Wood Smoke has been introduced to alder smoke in a 100-year old “riihi” barn.

Double pot distilled, Kyrö Wood Smoke is then aged in a combination of French oak, new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, resulting in intense pepperiness and sweet notes of caramel and vanilla, lifted by crisp alder smoke.

How incredibly unique!

Kyrö Rye Whisky + Monbazillac Cask “Kyrö’s Choice” 53%

  • Nose – Very different! Almost reminded me a bit of mescal, sweet wood, caraway, and rye
  • Palate – Very big, distinctive, acidic, apples, oats

What more do we know? The co-founder shared it was made, like the others with Finnish malted rye in new oak then a twist with an ex-Monbazillac cask.

Both the Malt & Wood Smoke whiskies retail for around EUR 50 for 500 ml bottles, whereas the special 2022 London Whisky Show Kyrö’s Choice is currently only available through The Whisky Exchange for GBP 65.

If you are curious about other Finland whiskies I’ve sampled, check out the following:

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London Whisky Show – Colourful Watt Whiskies

Back in June, I caught in Cape Town, South Africa a rather unpleasant version of COVID. It not only knocked me flat for weeks, it also robbed me of my olfactory senses – a complete disaster for a whisky aficionado!

I’ve often described the experience as akin to seeing only in shades of grey instead of a burst of brilliant rainbow colours. Gradually over the months, some sense of smell has returned but it remains muted compared to the previous clarity – where I could usually easily discern distinct elements, today it can be trickier and I often know there is something more a layer deeper that I just can’t quite penetrate or surface enough to describe. Frustrating indeed… but I’m at least grateful some sense has returned!

This brings me back to colours – in a recent impromptu tasting in Germany, I shared that when first exploring different types of whiskies, one idea is to consider what colour one would associate with that particular whisky profile? This is a great technique to start processing more creative impressions – Does it remind you of a hot and fiery red? A verdant cool green? Or more seaside in style, bringing hints of blue to the fore? What about sunshine yellow?

I’ve seen some “colour coding” before – most recently Gordon & Macphail’s discovery series uses green for ex-bourbon casks, purple for ex-sherry, and grey for peaty drams. However what if the colour wasn’t according to such strict logic?

Enter Watt Whisky – a new independent bottler started by a husband / wife duo Mark and Kate Watt in Campbeltown. As Kate shared, they both came from the industry and decided to set-up their own range with a view to bringing interesting affordable whiskies to the world. The colour approach comes from her husband’s synaesthesia, where he literally smells colours!

We were tipped off that the Paul John was worth checking out, so this was the 1st we sampled.

Intrigued by Kate’s story of how they began their independent bottler journey in challenging times (2019 then….COVID!) with this being their 1st big whisky event, we continued on to the Dunbarton 21 year followed by the Belair Athol 13 year.

We were highly tempted to continue, however, this was getting into the later stage of our whisky wanderings where you know you need to become highly selected else every impression will simply blur together, losing its magic of discovery!

Well worth exploring more another time… enjoy our quick impressions from a small sniff, swish tasting at The Whisky Show London 2022!

Paul John 4 year (2016 / June 2021) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 1 of 279 bottles

  • Nose – So incredibly tropical – taking the normal PJ tropical fruits and ramping them up several degrees
  • Palate – Intense spice, a bit of a flavour bomb, tropical fruit bowl, chocolate
  • Finish – Ahh… there is that spice shifting into bitter
  • Water – Yes, please!

It was great trying Paul John‘s character as selected by Kate & Mark Watt. What do they have to say:

Fully matured in an underground warehouse in Goa. Tropical fruits, spices, cloves & plums.

We shifted from India back to Scotland with a discontinued Lowland distillery – Dumbarton is a Lowland grain distillery, which also housed Inverleven and Lomond malt distilleries. Previously used primarily in Ballentine’s blends, the distillery closed in 2002 and is now demolished.

Dumbarton 21 year (2000 / June 2022) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 222 bottles

    • Nose – It started off quietly, gently unfurling, caramel, light smoke
    • Palate – Clearly a grain, what was a light peat influence on the nose became a full-fledged smoke bomb…. frankly more like sipping an ashtray
    • Finish – Closed on more smoke

Wow! I don’t know what exactly I expected. One normally thinks of Lowland grains as being either gentle or harsh alcohol. I think this may be the 1st that I’ve tried which was finished in an ex-Caol Ila Hogshead,

What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:

Finished for 9 months in an ex-Islay cask. Light, dry smoke, butterscotch, syrupy, ashy and medicinal.

We then moved on to the Highlands with the Blair Athol 13 year (2008 / Sep 2022) 56.7% (Watt Whisky) 301 bottles.

    • Nose – Nice! Extra berry, jammy
    • Palate – Well rounded
    • Finish – Dry and peppery

What a brilliant contrast to Dumbarton! Kate shared it was matured in a Hogshead and then finished in an ex-Red wine cask.

What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:

Rested in a red wine barrique for 16 months. Strawberries, jelly sweets and cured meats.

This pair – Dumbarton and Blair Athol – had the same coloured labels and yet could not be more different in character! Fascinating.

What fun being introduced to another interesting independent bottler. Wishing Kate & Mark the very best with their venture!

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Birthday Chorlton – Ornkey 22 year 53.4%

The story behind this one was that I was having trouble purchasing this Highland Park when it became available. So my London-based friend also tried… In the end, we both were successful! Which proved to be a good thing as one bottle went almost immediately to India to be sampled on a special evening. Whilst its sibling remained in London…. to later also make most of its way to Bombay!

Orkney (Highland Park) 22 year 53.4%

From our London evening, October 2022:

  • Nose – Fabulous nose – big and full, mineral, a bit of ‘funky forest’, earthy which a fresh maritime sea breeze, then started to shift to sweet heavy fruit, then back to grass stalks, aromatic and herbal with woodruff, sage…. waxy and happy, a touch of sandalwood and tobacco leaf
  • Palate – So much going on, spice, peat, fruit, a “wake up” dram that became sweeter and sweeter
  • Finish – A huge finish, orange marmalade with cinnamon spice
  • Revisit – So incredibly fruity, a veritable fruit basket, especially orange and sweet spices, some leather on the palate, cornflakes drowned in milk, exceedingly tasty

From our Mumbai evenings in November 2022:

  • Nose – A bit acetone at first, a bit sharp, then shifts to sea breeze – coming and going like the ebb and flow of the tide, hay, vegetal then it began to open up revealing some fruity elements – particularly citrus,. The more time in the glass, the sweeter it became -condensed milk, not quite a toffee sweetness… more like a dulce de leche, 
  • Palate – Sechuan peppers and a bit astringent at first, then sweetened into warm sprite
  • Finish – Spicey, dry wood
  • Water – On the nose, it flattens the aromas… bringing back a bit of that light sea breeze, joined by sweet milk however it is rather nice how water opens up the palate – that vegetal element shifts into sweet roasted root vegetables, lightly caramelized then fruity… which continues on to the finish – nice!

Particularly with the Whisky Ladies, there was a real range of reactions to this one… It was also such a contrast to our previous drams…each bringing quite different characters. For the gents, I changed the tasting order bringing this into 3rd rather than last place and think that worked much better – we could more readily discern the different elements and enjoy it for what it is.

Here are a few more Cholton’s from La Nouvelle Vague series:

And those we managed to sample from the earlier L’Ancien Régime series:

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